* The F-35’s GAU-22/A 25mm cannon has been tested on the ground at Edwards Air Force Base, with the General Dynamics-designed weapon having been developed for both internal and external gun systems of the Joint Strike Fighter. The cannon is mounted on an external pod for the F-35B and C variants, with the Air Force’s F-35A variant positioning the weapon internally. The four-barrel system allows the fighter to let loose just 180 rounds per reload, allowing for three short passes at best, or a total of 2.57 seconds of firing at maximum rate. That last problem featured heavily in criticism of the Air Force for floating the idea – since backtracked – that the F-35A could serve as the main ground forces protection platform. The Marines use the same cannon in their Harriers, but stock 300 rounds in the starboard pod. The program has been busy testing other weapons in recent weeks, including the Marines testing live JDAM bombs in early July. The Pentagon has been mulling what to include in future F-35 weapon tranches, with options including the Small Diameter Bomb II and Joint Strike Missile, as well as several others.
* Boeing is committing to keep its F-18 production line open in response to new and forecast orders from both the US and international customers. The company was worried that insufficient orders for new Super Hornet and Growler aircraft would fail to materialize and keep the production line economically viable. Boeing considered slowing the production rate in March, to extend the time available for more orders to come through the door. Recent orders from the US Navy and Kuwait have bolstered the company’s confidence in keeping the production line open.
* It has emerged that a Standard Missile-2 Block IIIA air defense missile exploded soon after launch from the USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) earlier this month, with the explosion leading to a fire on deck. The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer was firing the missile as part of testing in the Atlantic when the incident took place. Malfunctions involving solid fuel missiles such as the family of Standard Missiles are rare, with this incident causing limited damage to the USS The Sullivans and no reported injuries.
* Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has awarded a $83.1 million contract to Polaris Defense for tactical all-terrain vehicles. The Polaris ATV was reportedly selected partially as a result of its ability to fit in rotary-wing transport platforms, including the V-22 Osprey, MH-47 Chinook and MH-53 Pave Low, as well as larger fixed-wing platforms.
* Problems with the refueling system of Boeing’s K-46A tanker currently in development for the Air Force are likely to delay the awarding of $3 billion in low rate production contracts to the company by around eight months, as initial production is now slated to slip to April next year from the timetabled deadline of next month. The company was forced to revise its profit forecast last week after taking a $536 million charge for delays with the tanker’s refueling system, the second such charge the company has absorbed through a fixed-price contract to develop and manufacture the Air Force’s future tanker.
* An Air Force U-2 reconnaissance plane has demonstrated its ability to co-ordinate complex attack scenarios, recently re-targeting a Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) whilst flying at high altitude, using data sent from a F-22 fighter via a ground relay station. The U-2 also demonstrated its ability to relay data between a F-22 and F-18 Hornet. The tests evaluated Air Force Open Mission System standards, using a Lockheed Martin Skunk Works design known as Enterprise OMS. The U-2 used for the tests was also employed to demonstrate Lockheed Martin Open Systems Architecture in December 2014, with the testbed aircraft on loan from the Air Force.
* General Dynamics is moving the company’s assembly line and testing facilities for the SCOUT SV armored vehicle from its Santa Barbara Sistemas facility in Spain to Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales, with the move announced by British PM David Cameron on Thursday. The move is part of a $607 million contract awarded by the Ministry of Defence to General Dynamics to provide in-service support to the new fleet of 589 vehicles out to 2024, themselves procured in September last year through a $5.8 billion contract. Under the contract announced on Thursday, General Dynamics will assemble, integrate and test 489 of the 589 vehicles in Wales.
* The Balkan states of FYR Macedonia and Montenegro are hoping to secure an invitation to NATO later this year, with Poland’s Foreign Minister scheduled to discuss the topic during a three-day visit to Montenegro alongside officials from other NATO member states. Both prospective member countries are confident of meeting the minimum requirements for membership, despite Macedonia clashing with NATO member Greece, particularly over the country’s name, with polls indicating that a marginal majority of their populations are in favor of joining. Fellow Balkan states Albania and Croatia were admitted in 2009, with any further expansion in South East Europe likely to antagonize Russia.
* The Royal Navy is also trying to retain its highly trained pool of nuclear engineers with a one-off bonus of £24,000 ($37,500). Fearful of an exit en masse to the private sector, as well as other public bodies, particularly as the United Kingdom looks to expand its use of nuclear power. The service currently has approximately 4,500 nuclear engineers engaged on projects such as the new sea-based nuclear deterrent, known as Successor, with this planned to replace the Vanguard-class SSBN boats currently in service.
Middle East North Africa
* The Lebanese government has requested 1,500 TOW-2A guided missiles from the US, with the State Department approving the possible Foreign Military Sale, estimated to value $245 million. 1,000 of the missiles requested are the anti-armor variant and the remaining 500 bunker busting variants, with the order also including fifty launchers. The Lebanese government has recently received the first weapons purchased from France in November last year with Saudi financing the deal worth around $3 billion. Shipments of these weapons (including Milan anti-tank missiles) began in April. The country’s government also received weapons from China earlier this month, with these thought to have been donated by the Chinese government. The US has sent approximately $1 billion in military aid to Lebanon over the last eight years, previously supplying older versions of the TOW-2 system.
* BAE Systems has reportedly cut the per-unit cost of Eurofighter Typhoons by 20% over a five-year period, with company officials hoping that the reduced price will boost the chance of export orders. The jet will soon begin a round of weapons testing for advanced weapon designs, including the MBDA Meteor BVR air-to-air missile and the Storm Shadow crusie missile, with BAE Systems also reportedly planning to test an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar system later this year. With the French Rafale recently seeing export success in Egypt and India, the Eurofighter consortium is looking to offer the Eurofighter in larger numbers to both these countries as well as other states, particularly as the Typhoon begins to incorporate more advanced weapons and sensors.
* The Australian government has donated two Balikpapan-class landing craft (LCH) to the Philippines. The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) decommissioned the last of the fleet of LCHs in November 2014, with the two LCH vessels bolstering the Philippines Navy humanitarian relief capability.
* The Royal Thai Air Force appears to have received the three EC725 helicopters contracted for October 2014 and September 2012. The Airbus-manufactured helicopter has also been exported to Brazil, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Mexico. The model was also recently selected by Poland under a different name designation.
* The Indian government has removed some of the bureaucratic shackles previously hindering Indian defense firms from selling their wares abroad. The country’s defense ministry has removed the so-called ‘ultimate end user’ certificate requirement, which required clearance for the transfer of Indian-produced goods at each stage of a multinational supply chain, eating into both time and cost for customer and supplier. Under the revised legislation, Indian companies can now export certain types of equipment and other products abroad with the level of required certification only extending to the state immediately receiving the goods.
* Video footage of the B61-12 guided nuclear bomb during it testing earlier this month. The test was a collaborative effort between the Air Force and the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA):